Saturday, January 24, 2009


I finally saw an episode of Leverage. I saw the plane one. I'd seen some complaints about Leverage being cheesy. Complaints directed at the writers. Those complaints are entirely wrong. So say I. So say we all.

I like the show. But I see what people might be talking about as far as "cheesy". However, it's not with the writing or the shooting, or the editing, or the acting.

The entire tonal problem with the show is the music. The dialog and the performances are spot on. On a show like that though, the music must comment very seriously on the picture. But somebody decided that on Leverage the music would be tongue in cheek. I think that was a mistake.

With, for instance, the Oceans 11 (12, 13) movies, they went for that sorta 60's hip but they did it seriously, not campy. It's something of a fine line to walk but it's a real line. The super-example of this kind of music -- the hipster spy action genre -- is of course Mission Impossible.

Many years ago I read a book on music for film which influenced me because just about everything the author said was wrong. He was of the "Stanley Kubric is evil/ the movie should serve the music/Westerns should be scored with 12-tone" school.* He railed on and on about how horrible the music choices in 2001, and The Graduate, and Mission Impossible (the TV series), were.** I can't remember the name of the book or the author but obviously he was a bozo with an axe to grind and completely unable to see the forest-for-the-leaves as far as music and picture went.

Mission Impossible's music track (other than their very famous theme) was primarily percussion. Percussion! Now that's brilliant.

One of the smartest things ever said to me about composing for film came from Jonathan Newman who said "Make sure there's a groove." Yes, that's important. It's easy to write and record, which is one reason why film composers do it, but it also makes a scene move along much better.

Now the think about music for picture (or for stage for that matter) is that it frequently doesn't work as music. In other words, it doesn't stand-alone very well. But that's OK -- because you have the picture. It seems it's taken film composers a long time to collectively learn that.

And that all brings me to another specific problem with the music cues (or at least the ones I was paying attention to) in Leverage: there were melody lines over dialog.

For most intents and purposes your dialog is the melody. Good film music frequently sounds like there's a big hole cut in the middle of it. There's no melody line. That's because the frequencies you'd use for the melody are right where the dialog is. And if you are going to choose whether you're going to hear the melody or the dialog -- guess which the mixer for a show for network broadcast is going to choose.

So the music in Leverage is mixed fairly low in order to not compete with dialog. And the music being so quiet diminishes the intensity of the action by a shockingly large amount.***

They have the groove thing down. They just need grooves which are 1. serious and 2. melody-free.

So say I. So say we all.


All this being said, my musical analysis of my own movies really really sucks. I just can't figure out what to do when I'm looking at my own picture which I've been working on for months. I really really shouldn't be composing for my own movies.

Somebody please stop me by doing the work for me. For free.


All you need to know from this article in the New York Times is that "the men's minds and genitals were in agreement."


Can you tell that I'm not allowed to work on the picture portion of the movie right now?**** And that I'm waiting for visual effects to come in? And that I'm done with the 5.0 music and effects mixes and have rolled off the full 5.0 mixes as well as the stereo full mixes and M&E mixes? And finished the pan-and-scan version of the movie.

Can you tell?

Hey, at least I'm not on an extended rant about Nader.


Kitty from. Via Cukisag.

*Ergo, an idiot.
**I mean, a big freakin' idiot.
***The music sounds very music-library to me. But the composer has been around for a long time, started on Evil Dead. Odd...
****Picture editor has a shotgun.

No comments: